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Visas and U. S. Government

Preparing for Your F-1 Visa Interview

This information is for people who plan to enter the United States for the first time to study. For information on bringing dependents to the U.S., returning to continue studies, or renewing your visa, or for more details on how to apply for a student visa, refer to the U.S Department of State.


1. Contact your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy to ask about how to get an F-1 or J-1 international student visa. A list of Consulates and Embassies can be found here.  

2. After you receive an I-20 or DS-2019 form from the school that you want to attend, follow the U.S. Embassy/Consulate’s instructions to schedule an interview for your F-1 student visa. It is important to apply for your student visa as far in advance as possible. Many consulates recommend that appointments be made no more than 90 days from the intended date of travel, but some can make earlier arrangements for interviews.

3. Complete the following forms:

  • a. DS-156 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form
  • b. DS-158 Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant
  • c. If a male between the ages of 16 and 45, DS-157 Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application

4. Pay the visa application fee by following instructions on your local U.S. embassy or consulate’s Web site.

5. If your I-20 or DS-2019 was issued on or after September 1, 2004, and is marked for “initial” attendance (see #3 on your I-20 form), you may also need to pay the $100 SEVIS fee. For undergraduate students, the university will pay the fee for you. Law students will need to pay the fee.

To Pay By Mail

a. Get a Form I-901 “Fee Remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants”

  • Download the form from here OR
  • Ask for the form by phone at 1-800-870-3676 (inside the US)

b. Complete the Form I-901. Be sure to write your name exactly how it appears on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.

c. Prepare a check, international money order or foreign draft (drawn on US banks only) in the amount of $100 USD, made payable to “The Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

d. Mail the completed I-901 and payment to the address listed on Form I-901.

e. A form I-797 receipt confirmation letter should be mailed within 3 days of processing the fee. Be sure to make copies of this receipt letter, and keep it with your other important immigration documents.

To Pay Online

a. Find the Form I-901 from here.

b. Complete the form online and supply the necessary Visa, Mastercard or American Express information. *Be sure to write your name exactly how it appears on your I-20 form

c. Print a copy of the online receipt.

d. Be sure to make copies of your receipt, and keep it with your other important immigration documents You must bring the receipt of fee payment with you to the interview. If you have lost the receipt, the Visa Officer should be able to view your payment history in his or her database. If you are transferring schools, extending your program, applying for an F-2 dependent visa, or have paid this fee and been denied a visa within the last twelve months, you do not need to pay the $100 SEVIS fee.

6. Prepare and bring the following to your visa interview:

___ A passport valid for at least 6 months

___ Form I-20 (sign the form under Item 11) or DS 2019 

___ School admission letter

___Completed visa applications (DS-156, DS-158, and if applicable, DS-157)

___Two 2” x 2” photographs in the prescribed format (see the website)

___A receipt of the visa application fee

___A receipt for the SEVIS fee. If you have not received an official transcript in the mail showing payment and you paid the fee electronically, the consulate will accept the temporary receipt you printed from your computer. If you do not have a receipt, the consulate may be able to see your payment electronically if your fee payment was processed at least 3 business days before your interview.

___Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study.

___Any information that proves that you will return to your home country after finishing your studies in the U.S. This may include proof of property, family, and other ties to your community

7. Remain calm and answer all of the Visa Officer’s questions to you openly and honestly.

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